Mexico’s actual Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th and is considered a national holiday. That’s correct folks, Cinco de Mayo is not Independence Day for Mexico! El Grito or The Cry is the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico. The holiday commemorates the day the Mexican War of Independence began with Spain. It is celebrated in every city center in Mexico on the evening of September 15th with the ringing of the church or municipal bells.
Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was a Roman Catholic priest in the town of Dolores, near Guanajuato. Father Hidalgo was part of a rebellion against Spain. After several of his fellow insurgents were captured, Father Hidalgo feared he too would be arrested. Along with his brother and other radicals, they demanded the release of the captives. Finally, very late on the 15th of September, Father Hidalgo rang the church bells and made the first “shout” for independence. He urged his congregation to revolt and so began the war against Spain.
For this reason, Independence Day in Mexico is sometimes called El Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores) or El Grito de la Independencia (The Cry of Independence). This is also the reason Independence Day parties begin the evening of September 15th. With the holiday this year starting on Sunday evening, there have also been many parties throughout the weekend in bars, restaurants and peoples’ homes. It is a very exciting time, similar to the Fourth of July celebrations in the states.
Traditionally, Mexicans throughout the country converge in their zócalos or town plazas to reenact that historic evening. In Mexico City, the President of Mexico rings the bell at the National Palace around 11pm. Afterwards, he delivers a speech. As there is no known record of Hidalgo’s speech, most leaders touch upon patriotism and name the founders of the revolution. At the end, the President waves a Mexican flag while shouting “¡Viva México!” Usually, there are also fireworks and music. It is a very lively atmosphere!
This celebration occurs in every city in Mexico but with mayors or governors presiding in place of the president; as well as, in consulates and embassies around the world. In Playa del Carmen, El Grito will take place at the Palacio Municipal (City Hall). The festivities begin at 11pm. However, I recommend arriving earlier in the evening if you want to enjoy the entertainment, partake in delicious Mexican food and refreshments, and bask in the exciting atmosphere.
It is a celebration not to be missed if you are traveling in Mexico during this time! Whichever city you find yourself in Mexico, I recommend enjoying the exciting Independence Day activities. The revelry continues through September 16th which is considered a national patriotic holiday. Most every town also has a parade starting at the zócalos. In Mexico City, the parade winds down the Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico’s main boulevard, and passes the Ángel de la Independencia (Angel of Independence). In Playa del Carmen, the parade saunters down Treinta Avenida or 30th Avenue.
After all of the bell ringing and parades, celebrate with some good food and beer. Many restaurants and bars also celebrate Independence Day with drink specials, live music and DJs. You must try a bandera, literally meaning the word flag, on Independence Day! It is a three shot drink of lime juice, tequila, and then sangrita or tomato juice.
The colors of the lime, tequila, and sangrita match the colors of the Mexican flag! The drink is amazing!! Once you have it, you will never drink a tequila shot with lime and salt again. September 16th is an exciting time to be in Mexico and experience how this country celebrates its independence from Spain. I wish all of my friends in Mexico, “¡Viva México!”